There was a “Q & A” at the lunchtime meeting of the Maryville Kiwanis club on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at Green Meadow Country Club. Asking the questions was Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam, and the crux of the matter was the future of the state of Tennessee.
Haslam found little disagreement in the room when he asked for feedback on the major issues facing the state as Kiwanians pointed to problems with education, jobs, health care and ways to raise state revenue without raising taxes.
The candidate then outlined why his experiences as a businessman and mayor makes him the right choice for governor.
Haslam and his wife, Crissy, have been on the campaign trail for 656 days, he told the packed room, where more than 100 came for lunch and to hear him speak. “Democracy is really a hard idea,” Haslam said as he talked about campaigning, “but it’s the right one.”
As for the next years for the state of Tennessee, Haslam reiterated his message that the next governor will have a tough job.
“Unlike the federal government, we can’t print more money to take care of state debt,” Haslam said, “which is a good thing, but we have to look for solutions.”
The state has survived with $1 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money that is going away in December, Haslam said, so the new governor will have to be ready to make hard choices. In Tennessee, most of the portion of the budget that comes from the state comes from sales tax, Haslam said.
“We’re not going to grow our way out of (the debt). Our only real alternative is to shrink the size of state government. Sales tax revenues will not likely be back to where they were in 2007 until 2014,” Haslam said.
Haslam told the group that his experience as a businessman and a mayor make him qualified to lead the state.
“It helps to have a governor who has done it,” he said, “and I have. I know and understand the job ahead. When you can say, ‘I eat my own cooking,’ that’s a good selling point.”
Haslam encouraged all in the room to not only vote, but tell friends and neighbors to vote. The acknowledged front-runner, Haslam said the game is not over.
He told a story about Sen. Bob Corker and Peyton Manning playing golf in Chattanooga. Corker would have short putts to finish out the hole, but Manning never just let the Senator pick up his ball. Finally Corker asked the football great about it, saying, “You know, you haven’t given me a single putt all day, no matter how close I am.”
Manning said, “In the game I play, they make you go for it on 4th-and-inches.”
“We’ve got to make the putt,” Haslam said of the last days of the campaign and getting the vote out. “Nobody is going to give it to us.”